Association grassland is characterised by the association of two different species, usually grass and legumes, during sowing. Its purpose is to use qualities of each plant and to reap production or environmental benefits among others.
One Grass for Production, One Legume for Nitrogen
Most association grasslands combine two plant species of the two main forage families: grasses and legumes. Among grasses, most often used are ryegrass (perennial or Italian), fescue, Timothy, even brome grass or tall oatgrass. Among legumes, those most often used are lucerne or clover (white or red).
A grass monoculture has a greater yield than a legume monoculture, but requires a significant amount of chemical fertilisers. Yet a legume monoculture requires less fertiliser since legumes are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Associating those two cultures thus allows for the improvement of grassland’s forage production (in particular compared to legume monocultures) whilst decreasing a quantity of nitrogen fertilisers (30 to 40 kg/ha less in grassland, and up to 60-80 kg/ha less in the following cereal crop).
Forage association also allows for a better balance of forage food value as well as better conservation in silage form, compared to legume monoculture (grasses being richer in sugar).